It's no secret that Oakland has little money to maintain its parks these days, let alone upgrade them. Leave that to residents and community organizations, which play an increasingly important role in the upkeep and improvement of their local parks. Among the most active is Friends of Maxwell Park, which over the last three years has put untold hours into cleaning up the 1.4-acre Maxwell Park in the East Oakland neighborhood of the same name. Previously, the park was a haven for drug use and dealing, loitering, littering, and other activities hardly conducive to family recreation. Now, after the group has tackled weeding, new plantings and landscaping, lighting, trash cleanup, and tiling the exterior restroom walls in artful mosaics, it's much better off. Next up is a complete reworking of the park's layout; the group hopes to use grant money to commission and eventually implement a safer and more useful design.